Beweging in ‘wicked problems’

We zeggen het vaak tegen elkaar: keep it simple… Een goede raad, zaken complex maken leidt eerder tot minder dan tot meer betrokkenheid en beweging in de gewenste richting. En toch zijn er vraagstukken die zeer terecht ‘complex’ worden genoemd, en juist geen belang hebben bij ‘keep it simple’. En ook nu heeft het Engels een prachtig woord voor dit soort vraagstukken: wicked problems….

Complexe vraagstukken zijn overigens vaak ook écht complex. Denk daar bij aan maatschappelijk transities en decentralisaties, global warming, de aanpak van obesitas, healthy ageing (waar ik de afgelopen 2 jaar bij betrokken was: gezond ouder worden, langer thuis blijven wonen, impact op zorgorganisaties en professionals), etc. Zelf ben ik momenteel betrokken bij een vergelijkbaar vraagstuk: de energietransitie. Vraagstukken waarbij dé oplossing niet bestaat, die verband houden met andere vraagstukken, waar niet direct geld mee te verdienen is en meestal zie je pas achteraf of interventies zinvol waren.

Het loont de moeite om even te googlen op ‘cynefin’. Je vindt dan informatie over een framework, bedacht door Dave Snowden, dat een nieuwe kijk geeft op (organisatie)vraagstukken en samenwerking. Ook toepasbaar bij organisatievraagstukken vanuit het thema ‘organisatie van de toekomst’, zoals nieuwe organisatievormen (organiseren van een ‘zwerm’) en samenwerking in netwerken en ecosystemen. Snowden maakt het op een bepaalde manier toch weer ‘simpel’ door vier typen vraagstukken te onderscheiden:

  1. Simpel: eendimensionale, lineaire vraagstukken, waarbij een bewezen aanpak (blauwdruk) toegepast kan worden. Vaak gewoon binnen een organisatie. Hij legt de link met vraagstukken uit de redelijk overzichtelijke 19eeeuw.
  2. Ingewikkeld: vraagstukken waarbij je via de inzet van good practices en experts kunt komen tot een projectmatige aanpak. Gericht op optimalisatie. Soms met meerdere partijen. Passend bij de 20eeeuw, in ieder geval veel ingewikkelder dan type 1.
  3. Complex of ‘wicked’: deze vraagstukken zijn van deze tijd. Geen lineair verband tussen oorzaak en gevolg, geen directe oplossing voorhanden, veel betrokken partijen. Vragen om transitie ‘management’. Procesmatig werken, improviseren en benutten van zowel horizontale als verticale netwerken is essentieel.
  4. Chaotisch: situaties die aanvoelen als een vrije val, zonder veiligheid. Noem het crisis, wat dus ook crisis ‘management’ vraagt. Direct handelen, daarna pas waarnemen en bijsturen.

Iedere type vraagstuk vraagt een andere benadering en een andere vorm van organisatie en begeleiding. Vergelijkbaar met situationeel leidinggeven en situationeel adviseren. Bij complexe vraagstukken helpt het in ieder geval niet om te werken vanuit ‘command and control’ of projectmanagement. Ook het opdelen in simpele onderdelen of uitgebreide plannen maken werkt niet. En ook burning platforms en crisismanagement gaan niet bijdragen aan een (de?) oplossing.

Wat dan wel? Breng alle belanghebbenden in kaart en bij elkaar (‘the whole system in the room’, letterlijk!). Organiseer ontmoetingen die ertoe doen. Daag uit om in gesprek te gaan (ieder vanuit eigen belang). Onderzoek common ground (wenkend toekomstperspectief) en leid daar de acties uit af. Denk en werk voortdurend toekomst- en actiegericht. Blijf ‘slim doormodderen’. Laat je daarbij inspireren door actuele benaderingen als agile en design thinking. Creëer ruimte voor zelforganisatie en verantwoordelijkheid. Stippel een route uit waarlangs je constructieve ontmoetingen organiseert. En organiseer regie en begeleiding, maar neem zeker niet over. En ga vooral samen op pad, al werkend, lerend en bijsturend.

De komende tijd ga ik het aan de lijve ervaren. Een complex vraagstuk een stap verder helpen. Ben zeer benieuwd naar de stappen die we kunnen zetten, zonder grote plannen…

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